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Roundworms: Parasitic Infections, Symptoms & Treatment

What are Roundworms?

Roundworms are small organisms that can live in your intestine. It can live in the human intestine for a long time and can cause many problems including diarrhea, high fever, and abdominal pain. They have long and round bodies that can be of different types and sizes. The eggs and larvae of this worm live in the infected stool and soil. 

What are its Symptoms?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea and Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Presence of the worm in stool or vomit

Are Roundworms Common?

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are infected with roundworms at any given time. However, these parasites are not common in the United States. People can acquire them when traveling to certain countries. 

The Life Cycle of A Worm

  1. Ingestion. It can be infectious when it comes in contact with soil. People can ingest them through exposure to contaminated soil or through hand-to-mouth contact by eating uncooked fruits or vegetables that have been grown in contaminated soil.
  2. Migration. The larvae hatch in your small intestine and migrate through the intestine to travel to the heart and lungs via the bloodstream or lymphatic system. After maturing for about 10 to 14 days in your lungs, the larvae break into your airway and travel up the throat.
  3. Maturation of the worm. The parasites grow into male or female worms. Female worms can be more than 15 inches and male worms are generally smaller.
  4. Reproduction. Female worms can produce 200,000 eggs a day if there are both female and male worms in the intestines, and the eggs leave your body in feces. 

What Causes the Spread of Roundworm Infection?

The causes of the spread of the infection are not directly from person to person. It starts with a person has to come into contact with soil mixed with human or animal feces that contain eggs or infected water. These are widespread in some developing countries where human feces are used for fertilizer, or poor sanitary facilities allow human waste to mix with soil in yards. People can also get it from eating uncooked meat products that are infected. 

What are the Treatments for Roundworms?

Anti-parasite medications are the first line of treatment against this infection. In some cases, these parasites will go on their own without the need for treatment. Doctors often recommend the following anti-parasite medication:

Ivermectin. It treats conditions caused by roundworms. It works by paralyzing and inactivating the gut of parasites in humans. It stops the adult one from producing larvae. It kills the newly developed parasite and works to treat the infection. Medications for this condition often start to work in 3 days period. Ensure to take your prescription at the same time each day to get the utmost benefit. 

Doctors may recommend surgery if the parasite causes heavy infestation. It may be necessary to remove worms and repair the damage they’ve caused. Intestinal blockage or holes, bile duct blockage, and appendicitis are complications that may require surgery.

Are Roundworms Life-threatening to Humans?

If humans ingest the larvae of cat or dog roundworms, they can become infected, and illness results from the larvae migrating through organs and tissues. In severe cases, the worms may partly or completely block your small intestine. You may get an inflamed pancreas. The infection can even be life-threatening.

How to Prevent Roundworm Infection?

  • Avoid touching the soil as it might be contaminated with human feces.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. 
  • Teach your children to do the proper handwashing and let them wash their hands frequently. 
  • Wash, peel, and cook fruits and vegetables especially if they grow from manure-fertilized soil. 
  • Avoid exposure to improper sewage disposal. 
  • Contact your doctor if you have stomach problems especially if you have traveled from developing countries where there is an outbreak of the infection.

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